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Mourning the Loss of Gloria Casarez, HIV/AIDS and LGBT Leader in Philadelphia

October 20, 2014

Gloria Casarez throwing out the first pitch at the Philadelphia Phillies game, Aug. 23, 2010. (Credit: Mitchell Leff and the City of Philadelphia)

Gloria Casarez throwing out the first pitch at the Philadelphia Phillies game, Aug. 23, 2010. (Credit: Mitchell Leff and the City of Philadelphia)

Gloria Casarez was a steadfast leader whose work uplifted people with HIV, members of the LGBT community and those living in poverty. She lost her life to breast cancer on Oct. 20 at the age of 42.

Growing up Catholic in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Casarez came out as a lesbian at the age of 17. She was a founding member and community organizer for Empty the Shelters, a national housing rights and economic justice organization led by students and young people.

For nearly a decade, Casarez was the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) in Philadelphia. Under her leadership, its budget tripled and it launched Philadelphia's first mobile HIV testing centers and the Trans-health Information Project, among other nationally-recognized programs serving men of color and transgender communities. She also co-chaired the board of directors for Prevention Point Philadelphia, the city's syringe exchange program, from 1999-2003.

As reported by the Philadelphia Daily News, Mayor Michael Nutter said, "Gloria was a fun, serious, strong and kind person who always wanted to do more for others, and who fought for equality of rights for all people. We all loved Gloria's commitment and spirit. She was a fighter and champion, personally and professionally. I knew when I met her I had found the right person to serve as the director of the LGBT office, but more importantly, that I had met a great person. Her judgment and influence were felt throughout the administration on a broad range of issues."

As noted by Philadelphia Magazine, Casarez was a fighter till the end: "One of her last public appearances was at the rainbow flag raising at City Hall on October 2nd to mark LGBT History Month in Philadelphia. Despite her illness, she stood up and rallied the crowd as the flag made its way to full mast."

She is survived by her wife Tricia Dresser and her mother.

Julie "JD" Davids is the managing editor for and

Follow JD on Twitter: @JDAtTheBody.

Copyright © 2014 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

This article was provided by TheBody.
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